Guru, one-half of one of Hip Hop's most acclaimed groups (Gangstarr with DJ Premier), would be well on his way to perfection if practice truly made perfect. In a genre where most careers end after two albums, Guru's "Jazzmatazz 4" is the eleventh album on which he has served as the lead MC.
Guru, an almost twenty-year Hip Hop veteran, has a lifetime of experience. So, what does Guru have left in him after over two decades of making albums?
"I'm like lightning when I'm writing; I strike perfection," says the guy himself on "Connection." Guru has delivered his best performance to date on "Jazzmatazz 4." While his voice has been largely consistent throughout his career, his lyrics have evolved as well, from complex rhyme schemes in "Step in the Arena" to more straightforward, deep styles in albums such as "Streetsoul."
Older Techniques Over New Techniques
He's given up on trying out new techniques in favor of honing existing ones, and it's paid off handsomely. Guru has created an anthology with this record, combining the greatest of his work into one stunning package.
Guru has spent his entire career expanding the concept of what a rapper can achieve musically, despite flowing in a low-key that skirts the line between melodious and monotonous. Guru has a penchant for detecting the cutting edge of Hip Hop music, whether it's setting trends with DJ Premier or fusing rap with jazz and soul in his Jazzmatazz series. Guru used Solar for their second album together ("Street Scriptures 7.0"), "Jazzmatazz 4."
Solar – The Epitome of the Album
Solar's output has increased dramatically since "Street Scriptures," which underwhelmed many. The Jazzmatazz pseudonym appears to have given him a focus for his abilities; his production here arguably outperforms Guru's lyrics. Solar is the best-sounding Jazzmatazz album ever, flawlessly blending rap, jazz, soul, and even funk and reggae to create the best-sounding Jazzmatazz record yet.
Solar is the perfect partner to Guru's calm, laid-back rhymes, as simple to flow over as any rap music and as smooth as the other genres. As a result, Guru sounds better than he has in over a decade, and he fully exploits the incredible music on offer.
If anyone doubts Guru's hunger after so much success, all they have to do is listen to him slaughter the swinging drums and horns of "This is Art." And while he is more than capable of carrying a song on his own, when he is paired with other great rappers, he achieves even greater heights.
"Jazzmatazz 4" isn't without shortcomings, as brilliant and inventive as it is. For many rap aficionados, it will simply be monotonous. The music is excellent, yet it's so laid back that it comes across as uninteresting.
While Guru is at the top of his game here, he does have a habit of over-emphasizing how good he is. It's not a problem for the individual songs because he executes it with skill, demonstrating the cutting edge of his approach. However, when his boasting takes up nearly half of the album, it might become tedious.